. VE RSITY
"A litil boke for
II Grafton Street New Bond Street, London, W.
Sherratt and Hughes
Publishers to the Victoria University of Manchester
34 Cross Street, Manchester, and
Soho Square, London, W.
A litil boke the whiche traytied
and reherced many gode thinges
necessaries for the... Pestilence...
made by the... Bisshop of Arusiens
... [London], [I485 ? ]
Reproduced in facsimile from the copy in the
John Rylands Library. With an Introduction
by Guthrie Vine, M.A.
Manchester : At the University Press
London: Bernard Quaritch, and Sherratt and Hughes
Letterpress and Plates primed
at the University Press Oxford
by Horace Hart
vi PREFATORY NOTE
of facsimile reproductions of some of the more interesting
and remarkable of the rarer books and prints of which
they are the guardians,
The volumes will consist of minutely accurate facsimiles
of the works selected, preceded by short bibliographical
It is proposed to limit the issue of each work to five
hundred copies. Of this number two hundred will be
reserved for distribution to the principal libraries of the
world ; the remainder will be offered for sale at a price
calculated to cover the cost of reproduction.
The introduction to the present volume has been
written by the sub-librarian, Mr. Guthrie Vine, to whom
the thanks of the Governors of the library and of the
writer of this note are due.
We are also indebted to the Controller of the Oxford
University Press for the interest and care which he has
bestowed upon the production of the work.
The John Rylands Library
Social Effects of Epidemics
The Plague in Mediaeval Europe
The Sweating Sickness
The first London Printer.
Lettou and Machlinla
The Original of this Facsimile .
Sweden in the Fifteenth Century
The Author of this Treatise
History of the Treatise
TH influence of epidemic disease in the development
SOCIAL of society is a matter replete with interest,
EFFECTS OF whether the subject be viewed from the
EPIDEMICS standpoint of history, or of medicine. The
mysterious visitation that swept away the Assyrian host
beneath the walls of Jerusalem, the disastrous plague that
sapped the vitality of Athens in the maturity of her great-
heSS, are but conspicuous examples of forces always
operative in history.
Great and widespread calamities, by their utter dis-
regard of social conditions, must ever effect profound
modifications in the form, and structure, of society. The
Black Death may be considered at least as important
a factor in producing the economic changes that marked
the dose of the fourteenth century in England as the
long and exhausting war with France. Yet the Black
Death was merely one of many epidemics similar in
character, if lesser in degree.
If such epidemics were liable on their first approach to
be regarded as special manifestations of the divine dis-
pleasure, against which it were hopeless to contend, it can
awaken no surprise. That on their recurrence from time
to time men sho61d endeavour to cope with their enemy
with such means as lay at their disposal resulted naturally
x A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PESTILENCE
enough from their growing familiarity with the style, and
manner, of attack.
The treatise here reproduced furnishes an account of
the various remedies, and curative methods, adopted in the
middle ages for checking the advance of the terrible foe.
The mere recital of the more serious attacks to which
Europe was subjected from the time of the Black Death
to that of the compilation of the present treatise, a period
of a little over a century, is sufficient to give one some
idea of the devastation that must have been wrought in
Europe by this dreadful scourge.
The Black Death is said to have originated in the Far
East, and thence to have swept across Asia
PLAGUE IN without a check. It made its appearance
SV.r)IAvAL in Sicily in 346, and in the following year
broke out in Constantinople, Greece, and
Italy. Thence it travelled across the Continent until it
reached England in 348, where it lasted for several
years, being conveyed from this country in x349 to
Norway and the other Scandinavian states. In x 36 , and
again in x368, we find numbers dying from the disease
both in France and England. In x37 o countless victims
are said to have perished from the plague in Ireland,
which country again suffered severely from its ravages in
i383. The year 375 witnessed an outbreak of a serious
character in England, although not comparable to that of
39o-9 , which was likened for its mortality to the Black
Death of forty years before.
The fifteenth century enjoyed no more immunity from
attacks of the plague than did the previous one. All
parts of Europe suffered intermittently from it. In Eng-
land it broke out between i4o 5 and t4o7, carrying off in
London, it is said, 3o,oo people in the latter year. The
next grave attack in England appears to have occurred
about 142o. In a petition from the Marches of 1421 we
hear of "great numbers of persons dead by the great
mortalities and pestilences which have raged for three
years past and still reign ". Turning to the Continent
one finds that 8o, cx3o persons are stated to have died in
1427 in Dantzig and the neighbouring country. In
1438-39 the plague was still very rife in Germany, its
prevalence in Basel being attested by Aeneas Sylvius,
afterwards Pope Pius II. England, too, was not exempt
from the disease in these years, for between 143o and
t44o four outbreaks are recorded in London, the last one
extending to the whole kingdom. The next visitation of
the plague, which began in 1448 , appears to have overrun
practically the whole of Western Europe. It reached
Sweden in i45o and devastated that country for a period
of five years, carrying off in I455 no fewer than 9,ocx3
persons in Stockholm alone. The autumn of i464 saw a
recurrence of the disease in Sweden, which lasted with dire
effects for about two years; the mortality in Stockholm
on this occasion is said to have reached a total of 7,oo.
The prevalence of the plague in Sweden at this period
is of special interest in view of the fact that the treatise here
reproduced in facsimile was written (as will appear later)
This statement is borne out by a manuscript in the
British Museum (Additional MSS. 27582) written by
Thomas Forestier, a doctor of medicine belonging to
Normandy who was resident in London at the time.
Soon afterwards he seems to have removed to Rouen,
where, probably in I49 I, was published a Latin work by
him on the plague, entitled: "Tractatvs contra pesti-
lentiam thenasmonem et dissenteriam." In the latter
work he names the I9th of September, x485, as the date
of the commencement of the sweating sickness. Other
authorities, whilst differing as to the day, agree in attri-
buting its origin to the autumn of x485.
After its first appearance the disease seems to have
spread with terrible rapidity. In London Thomas Hyll
the lord mayor, Sir William Stokker chosen as his suc-
cessor, and several aldermen died within a few days--facts
that enable us to form some idea of the extent of the
mortality amongst the other classes of citizens. As the
coronation of Henry VII took place with due ceremony
on October 3% and Parliament met on the 7th of the
following month, the departure of the disease would appear
to have been as sudden as was its advent. The same
suddenness that marked the general movements of the
epidemic characterized the individual attacks. In the
*Tractatvs contra pestilentiam, etc." Forestier says that
,c more than 5,000 persons departed this world by sudden
death, as if from divine chastisement, and many died
unshriven without respite, whilst walking in the streets ".
Vhether Forestier is here speaking of the number of
xiv A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PESTILENCE
victims in London does not seem clear, but the suddenness
of the attacks must have been not the least terrible feature
of them. We have a vivid picture of this characteristic of
the disease in the manuscript treatise of Forestier. "We
saw" (he says) "two prestys standing togeder and
speaking togeder, and we saw both of them dye sodenly.
Also... we se the wyf of a taylour taken and sodenly
dyed. Another yonge man walking by the street fell
down sodenly. Also another gentylman ryding out of
the cyte dyed." The terms in which he describes the
symptoms correspond closely with other accounts: "And
this sickness cometh with a grete swetyng and stynkyng,
with rednesse of the face and of all the body, and a con-
tynual thurst, with a grete here and hedache because of
the fumes and venoms." It is no cause for wonder that
to a superstitious age the outbreak of such a disease
augured ill for the peace of Henry's reign.
The disease soon made its way from London into the
country. Definite notices of it are scanty, but we know
that the abbot of Croyland succumbed to an attack on the
4th of October. Its prevalence at Oxford is well attested ;
although it lasted but a few weeks its stay was long enough
to exact a heavy toll among the scholars of the University.
Though records of its presence are but few, the statements
of historians as to the extent of its ravages may presumably
be accepted without reservation.
This disease that broke out in 485 was generally
believed to differ in character from any of the epidemics
that had preceded it; hence the assignment of a new name
xvi A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PESTILENCE
Seine, the very region where Henry's force had been
raised, and lasted with but little intermission for a century
and a half. It seems not unreasonable to suppose that
the seeds of this later endemic disease may always have
lain latent in this region, but for lack of entirely suitable
conditions may for long have failed in their native soil to
reach the point of germination. These conditions must
have been supplied in England. Contact with people of
a different stock, and other manners, may have been all
that was requisite to enable the infection to burst forth.
Strangers are naturally more susceptible to any malady
than those who by long residence in an infected area have
become gradually inured against a disease. A parallel is
furnished by the yellow fever, from which negroes enjoy
almost complete immunity, although they are believed to
have been the means of introducing the virus to the white
man. Even the exemption of Henry's force from attacks
of the sweating sickness (supposing it granted, and history
is silent on the point) would not seem, therefore, to justify
us in refusing our assent to the theory that traces the
infection to that source.
Whilst the honour of printing the first English books,
as well as that of introducing the art of
LONDON typography into this country, belongs to an
VRIT.R Englishman the distinction of establishing
the first press within the actual boundary of the city of
London is claimed by John Lettou, supposed to belong
to Lithuania of which name Lettou is an old form.
An examination of the technique of Lettou's work
shows that he was a practised printer. The fount of type
used in his first books is practically identical with one
employed at Rome in I478-79 by Johann Bulle of
Bremen which according to the late Mr. Proctor, was
the same as one in the hands of another printer in that
city, Johann Schurener. It seems quite likely that Lettou
may have been an assistant at one of these presses, and
have brought away with him from that city a fount of
type with which he was already familiar. Many of the
early printers moved from one country to another, so that
there would be nothing exceptional in Lettou migrating
from Rome to London.
What reasons brought Lettou to London we do not
know, but here in I48O we find him printing three editions
of an indulgence of John Kendale against the Turks
(of which Caxton printed a corresponding number),
besides the work of Antonius Andreas "QBestiones super
duodecim libros metaphisice", and in the following year
the "Expositiones super Psalterium" of Thomas Wallensis.
A certain amount of rivalry no doubt existed between
Caxton and Lettou, and in one particular, namely, the use
of" signatures", the former seems to have copied Lettou.
These are small letters (or figures) placed at the foot of the
first leaves of a quire to aid the binder in the arrangement
of the sheets. They are found in some of the earliest manu-
scripts, and were at first added by hand to printed books
but about I472 the custom of printing them was introduced.
The two books printed by Lettou were produced at the
A noticeable deterioration in the quality of workman-
ship accompanied the change in the class of books issued
by the press. For the neat fount used by Lettou was
substituted a small cramped type, evidently designed for
printing law books, as it contains numerous contractions,
like the legal manuscripts of the time.
After the publication of the five books mentioned above
Lettou's name disappears ; whether through death, or
through withdrawal from the business, is not known. The
deterioration in the press work just alluded to suggests
that on the accession of Machlinia he did not exercise
the same active supervision over the press, and may have
been preparing to retire from it altogether on his partner
acquiring sufficient practice in the art of printing. On
the other hand the consistent employment of signatures
so long as Lettou remained in the firm--a typographical
aid used very irregularly by Machlinia--shows that the
former did not give up entire charge to his partner.
The date when Machlinia acquired the sole control of
the press appears to have been about t483, although
owing to the entire absence of dates in his books one is
unable to state positively when the change took place.
The same fount of type, with some modifications, as
that used by Lettou and Machlinia appears in one other
book, "The siege of Rhodes," which is generally attri-
buted to an unknown printer. This is an English version
by John Kay, who describes himself as poet laureate, of
a Latin work written by Gulielmus Caorsin, vice-chancdlor
of the Knights of Malta.
xx A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PESTILENCE
Dibdin in the "Bibliotheca Spenceriana" adjudged the
work, on account of the resembhnce of the type, to be
the production of Lettou and MacMinia, or of Lettou alone ;
but, as the book shows traces of less skilful workmanship
than those with which Lettou's name is associated, and has
no signatures, which that printer always used, one may
assume that he had no hand in printing it. It is produced
with more skill and care than Machlinia was wont to exhibit,
so one seems unable to entertain the idea of his being the
printer, whose identity appears likely to remain a moot point
for the present.
The book is dedicated by the translator to Edward IV,
whose death took place in April, x483. As dedications
were apt to be copied without alteration in printed books
of that period, long after they were originally written, it
would be rash to take for granted that this was the date
of printing solely for that reason ; on the other hand, x483
does not seem an unlikely date for the issue of the book,
as Machlinia had probably just started on his own account
with fresh types, and may have parted with the discarded
fount to some other printer who employed it for this
The absence of definite dates in all of Machlinia's books
MACHLINIA'S constitutes a serious difficulty in their
PRESS arrangement, which no examination of the
technique seems able to overcome, for he appears to use
quite indiscriminately signatures, headlines, and directors"
rathe name given to the small letters printed in the blank
spaces left for the insertion of rubricated or illuminated
capitals, to serve as guides to the rubricator.
The productions of his press can be divided, however,
into two groups according to the type employed in them,
known as the Fleet Bridge group, and the Iqolborn group.
In two of the eight books belonging to the former group
the printer gives his address as near "Flete brigge';
whilst in the colophon to one of the latter he describes
himself as printing in Flolborn.
For the books of the Fleet Bridge group, which was
probably the earlier of the two, Machlinia used two new
founts of type, of a square gothic character, described as
types 2 and 3 by Mr. Proctor, his type I, which was
used for headings and opening words of books, being
the same as that similarly employed by Lettou. The two
books referred to as containing colophons, both of which
are in the John Rylands Library, are an edition of
Littleton's "Tenores novelli" and the "Liber aggrega-
tionis" of Albertus Magnus. The colophon of the
former is as follows: " Expliciunt Tenores nouelli
lmpressi per me wilhelm de machlinia in opulentissima
Ciuitate Londonia iuxta ponte qu.i vulgariter dicitur Flete
brigge." The colophon of the Albertus Magnus reads
thus : "[ A1bertus Magnus de Secretis nature Explicit
Necnon per me wilhelmum de Mechlinia Impressus In
opulentissima Ciuitate Londoniar Iuxta pontem qui
vulgariter dicitur Flete brigge."
Perhaps the most interesting amongst the Fleet Bridge
books from a bibliographical point of view is a small
xxii A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PESTILENCE
vellum edition of the "Horae ad usum Sarum ", the
existence of which is known only from a few leaves
recovered from various bindings and distributed in the
British Museum, the libraries of Cambridge University,
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Lincoln Minster.
This book exhibits the only ornament used by Machlinia,
in the shape of an engraved border, which we afterwards
find in the hands of Richard Pynson.
Another book that deserves a passing reference is "The
revdation of St. Nicholas to a monk of Evesham ", as
affording an example of Machlinia's somewhat casual
methods of work. In the course of printing this book
one of the sheets was wrongly imposed, but instead of re-
printing the whole sheet correctly he merely printed off
some copies .of the wrong pages and pasted them down in
their proper order.
One of the books in this group most commonly met
with is an edition of the "Nova statuta", printed in law
French. It covers the period from the first year of
Edward III to the 22nd year of Edward IV inclusive.
The latter year terminated on March 3, I48Z-3, and as
Edward IV died in the following month this book can
reasonably be assigned to his successor's reign.
The removal of Machlinia to Holborn may probably
be placed about the latter half of I484, assuming that the
introduction of the new types (Nos. 4 and 5) synchronized
with the change of address. The type styled by Proctor
no. 4 bears a strong resemblance to one of Caxton's
founts (no. 2") and is still more like that used by
xxiv A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PESTILENCE
Museum, Cambridge University Library, and the John
Rylands Library respectively. The British Museum copy
has a title-page, the earliest occurrence of one in any book
printed in this country. The next example of a title-
page is found in "The Chastysing of goddes Chyldern",
printed by Wynkyn de Worde about 1491.
The only other certain production of Machlinia's press
with which any definite date can be connected is a Bull of
Innocent VIII confirming the marriage of Henry VII with
Elizabeth of York, and excommunicating all who should
rebel against Henry VII, which was issued by the Pope on
March 27, 486. There are two copies now extant, one
of which is preserved in the John Rylands Library, and
the other in the library of the Society of Antiquaries.
The unique copy of the "Regule, etc.", of the
Chancery of Pope Innocent VIII preserved in the John
Rylands Library, that must have been printed after Sept.
23, ,484, has also been regarded as one of the books
which assist in the arrangement of Machlinia's productions.
But, in spite of its close resemblance, the fount employed
is not the same as type 4 of Machlinia, having a lighter
face, and containing, too, a superior m which Machlinia
does not appear to have used. If it is not formed by
trimming up type 4, it is probably a fount employed by
Veldener, or Jean Brito, so that the work would have to
be assigned to a Low Country press.
One of the best known books in the Holborn group is
the "Speculum Christiani" attributed to John Watton. It
is a volume of theology, written partly in Latin, and partly
xxx A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PESTILENCE
by the terms of which the three kingdoms of Denmark,
Norway, and Sweden were to be henceforward under the
rule of a single sovereign.
Causes for dissatisfaction with this arrangement were
not long in making their appearance. A struggle arose
as to the feudal rights of Denmark over the duchy of
Schleswig, and this devdoped on the death of Margaret
in '413 into a war which hsted twenty years. To meet
the expenses of this war Eric levied heavy taxes on the
Swedes, who in i434 took up arms under a miner, named
Engdbrekt Engelbrektsson, and compdled the Swedish
Council of State to proclaim the deposition of the king in
,436. By the influence of the nobility Eric regained his
authority to a large extent, but he was obliged to appoint
as viceroy in Sweden Karl Knutsson, one of the leaders of
the national party.
Eric was not destined, however, to enjoy his regal
power much longer, for in I439 he was dethroned by the
three countries, and was obliged to seek safety elsewhere.
In his stead Denmark chose his nephew, Christopher of
Bavaria, whose authority was soon recognized in the other
two kingdoms. On his death in 14.48 Christian, count of
Oldenburg, was chosen to fill the throne of Denmark, to
which was added shortly that of Norway. The Swedish
people were not so compliant as the sister state, and
elected Karl Knutsson king, under the title of Karl VIII.
With the nobility and clergy, at the head of whom was
the Archbishop of Upsah, openly disaffected towards him,
his position became at last untenable, and he was obliged in
xxxii A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PESTILENCE
summary of the events which happened during the life-
time of our author it is impossible, in the absence of
certain information, to reconstruct with any degree of
probability the outline of his career.
For our author's name and office we are indebted to
THE AUTHOR the Latin editions of this treatise printed in
OF THIS the fifteenth century. In these the work
is described thus, with variations: "Regi-
men contra pestilentiam... Kaminti (or Kamiti), episcopi
Arusiensis civitatis, regni Dacie, medicine expertissimi
professoris." The form Kaminti, or Kamiti, has long
been recognized as a mistake for Kannuti, or Kanuti ; but
owing to the fact that ' Arusiensis civitatis" was wrongly
identified with Aarhuus in Denmark instead of Arosia, the
Latin form of Vtergs near Stockholm in Sweden, the
author could not be traced, as no bishop of Aarhuus bore
a name at all resembling his. The apparent geogra-
phical difficulty connected with the expression "regni
Dacie", i.e. kingdom of Denmark, exphins itself on
reference to the history of the two countries of Sweden
and Denmark, and, indeed, by narrowing the limits
of,our search hdps us to fix with the more certainty
on Bengt Knutsson (Benedict Kanuti), who was dected
bishop in t46I, as the author of this work.
Our author was a man of rank we learn from the
Swedish chronicle of the bishops of Viisters, compiled by
Peder Svart, a bishop of the see who died in ,. D. 1562.
From the fact of his appointment to the bishopric of this
xxxiv A LITTLE BOOK OF THE PESTILENCE
There are grounds for bdieving that some such conflict
between the civil and spiritual powers arose in the present
instance. Bishop Svart's chronicle states that Knutsson
was appointed bishop by the Council of the Kingdom in
King Christian's absence"--which need by no means
imply his ignorance--'and that he held the office two
years." Official documents of Pope Pius II, however,
show that immediatdy after the death of Olaf Gunnari in
I46I the Pope appointed to the see Birger Mnsson,
who generally figures as successor, in May I462, to
Knutsson. As two letters are in existence, one of July
25, 1462, and another of 1463, in which Knutsson is spoken
of as bishop of Viisters, it seems fairly certain that one is
not justified in assuming the death of Knutsson to have
necessarily taken place before May, 1462 , when Birger
Mnsson is credited with being elected bishop, a date that
may only mark the time when the Papal nomination was
accepted by the chapter. Supposing Knutsson to have
been a partisan of the Danish king, as suggested above,
one can easily understand that the Swedish clergy in their
growing state of alienation from Christian I would
welcome the opportunity of removing from office one of
As to the time and place of Knutsson's death we are
m ignorance. The same obscurity in which the earlier
portion of his life is wrapt surrounds the closing scenes.
The compilation of the work on the plague--the outcome
of the experiences gained in his days of poverty--that was
the source of all the treatises published on the subject for
,50 years, has alone preserved his name from entire
oblivion. The disease that had devastated Sweden from
,45o to x455, and again in 464 and x465, had probably
never entirely quitted the country in the interval between
these visitations, and it was in anticipation of its breaking
out with increased virulence that we may assume the
author to have written his work about 461-63 .
As the text is available in this reproduction, it is
unnecessary to dwell upon the causes assigned by
Knutsson for the spread of the pestilence, or on the
remedies which he recommended.
The various forms in which his work was circulated
HISTORY need to be briefly described before termi-
OF THE nating this notice of his treatise. Several
T REATl SE
Latin editions were printed in the fifteenth
century, lacking for the most part any indication of printer,
place, or date. On typographical grounds they are assigned
to Antwerp, Paris, etc. None of them are likely to be
much, if at all, earlier than the English version printed
by Machlinia. A versified form of the work appears in
an edition of "Albertus Magnus de Virtutibus herbarum",
which was printed about 5oo.
The history of the English version is of greater interest.
One of the Sloane manuscripts in the British Museum is
said to agree so closely in wording and spelling that it
may actually have been the original from which the text
was set up by Machlinia. This is the manuscript described
as no. 276. in Ayscough's Catalogue, and no. 404